The National Mall

The National Mall is home to more than just monuments and memorials; it is where you will also find the nations most treasured and priceless exhibits. In case you didn't know it before, thanks to all our tax dollars anyone can visit these museums FREE of charge! Here are the highlights...

The Smithsonian Institution is made up of 19 different museums. The "Castle" is the first Smithsonian completed in 1855. We learned that the benefactor of the institution, James Smithson, an English scientist, never actually visited the institution however his crypt is located inside the north entrance. The building now serves as an information center for all the Smithsonian Museums.

The Air and Space Museum is the largest of all the Smithsonians. On display among many things are artifacts from the Apollo 11 and 13 missions and the original 1903 Wright Flyer. We paid to see an IMAX movie about the surface of the sun. Scientists built 2 special satellites to capture the suns solar activity in 3-d. The boys are now torn between building airplanes like dad or flying rockets to the moon.

For a brief time the Smithsonian is featuring an exhibit celebrating the work of Jim Henson. This was one of my personal favorite exhibits, I couldn't help but giggle and smile through the whole thing. Recently the kids have become more acquainted with Jim Henson's work in the movies "The Dark Crystal" and "Labyrinth." It was especially fun to see some of the wardrobe items used for the puppets in those movies.

A day at the museum of Natural History wouldn't be enough to see it all and although we had even less time we managed to make it through over 100 million years of history. The fossils were amazing, and it was surprising to see that the dinosaurs were big but not as big as we imagined. The rock and gem exhibit was very extensive and of course inspired the kids to keep working on their own rock collections. We also got a glimpse at the famed "Hope Diamond."

We stumbled into the National Botanical Gardens looking for a bathroom, what we found was no less than amazing. The gardens were very ornate and set up to cover all climates and regions. The variety of plants displayed in one building was more than any of us had ever seen before. Plenty of flowers for the girls and other interesting plants for the boys. Even Rob was impressed and that is saying a lot.

On our last day we managed to squeeze in a peak at the National Gallery of Art. The kids were less impressed with the art and sculptures, however knowing we had FREE access to see some of the most revered art in the world was very exciting. I especially enjoyed the Edgar Degas exhibit, the gallery is home to the largest complete collection of his original sculptures in the world. Thankfully most of the pieces on display through out the gallery are donated or gifted to our nation.